Archive for April, 2019

Bike Barge Arrival

Saturday, April 27th, 2019

We had figured out how to get to the train the night before so we were up early and out the door by 8 am.  We stop at the Starbucks and they don’t open until 9 am!  What!!! Are you kidding me.  Europe definitely keeps different hours than we do in the States and Paul and I are still a bit jet lagged.  We are ready for bed by 9 pm and awake by 7 without an alarm.  I’m hoping this adjust soon because it isn’t even dark here at 9 pm!

Anyway there was a McD across the way so Paul got his fix and I tried a latte and off to the train station.  This train to Amsterdam we chose a prepaid 1st class ticket as we needed to besure to arrive to meet our Barge by noon.  Very nice seats, with a clean toilet room and breakfast!  More croissants.  So far I have had one every morning!  We made it to Amsterdam  and before walking the short distance to the boat we paid again for a toilet!  So far the toilets have almost costs as much as our first breakfast!

Our Barge is not exactly a Barge!  They had to upgrade our Barge because it didn’t get out of drydock in time.  So the Dutch Melody will be our home for the next week.  A much large boat with a real bar, library and usually carries 140 passengers; we are only a group of 60!  The good news was we had plenty of room and the accomodations were definitely very nice.

Chandeliers!

We arrived and settled in.  The plan was to venture into Amsterdam but it was raining again so we had a nap and then drinks in the lounge before our briefing about our bike rides!

 

Antwerp, Belgium

Friday, April 26th, 2019

Woke up to rain and walked the block to the laundry before leaving Paris.  Doing laundry on the road is not my favorite but it is colder than we expected so I want to make sure we have what we need for the bike trip.  Laundry done and off to the train station to find the Thalys Train to Belgium.  We walked about a mile through MontMarte to the station and had plenty of time to find our train.  While we waited I found the toilets and paid my .70e!  Paying for toilets is just too bazzare.

The trains are a great way to travel, its a bit confusing looking for the right type of train as they have their own schedules and appear to be in the same station but they are not.  The good news is everyone in the train stations so far are very nice and so helpful.  Our train finally came and we had good seats for the ride to Antwerp.

We arrived in Antwerp and after getting out of the train station we kept getting turned around and finally decided on a taxi instead of walking with our bags to the apartment.  The taxi driver was very nice and definitely knew where to go.  They don’t have Uber in Belgium yet but the taxi’s seem really good and not too expensive.

Surprising!  Our AirBnB is in a great location and brand new inside!  Only 2 nights but is will be very relaxing.

The view from our 2nd floor apartment

Antwerp is a beautiful city from what we can see.  We are staying right on the market square and there is so many shops and restaurants and amazing architecture.  Cobbled streets and beautiful churches.  This is really nice.

                                                                      Cathredral of Our Lady of Antwerp.  

 

Sleeping child

This was so cool.  A huge sculpture built right into the cobbled patio.  It was so interesting that their was lots of tourists just standing there looking at it!  Impressive.

Not all the architecture is MidEvil.    The Museum aan de Stroom.  This one was on our way to the port to take a cruise around the port.

Then we have the entrance to the port.  We enjoyed a really nice ride around the port and saw lots of ships, big and small as well as lots of windmills.  

After our boat ride we decided to give the scooters a try.  Paul downloaded the Byrd app and located 2 scooters.  We keep seeing these in all sorts of places and really wanted to try them.  It took us longer to locate 2, load the app to both our phones and then learn to make them go than we spent riding them.  We rode them back to our apartment, about 2 miles.  I think it costs $10.  No one got hurt, no trips to emergency so it was a bunch of fun.  I think they are definitely best for commuting so you know where to locate and where to go with it.  We were just having fun.

We leave for Amsterdam in the morning but we will be back to Belgium after our Bike Barge trip

The Main Attraction

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

We got a glimpse of it yesterday but today was the day we got to go up to the second level.  Not the top but the second level has a great view of Paris and was high enough.  The Eiffel Tower was built for the Worlds Fair in 1889 by Gustave Eiffel and was not suppose to be permanent.  Our guide told us on the boat tour that we would not recognize Paris without it and that is part of how it got to stay.  Makes sense, its a long story of how it became and why it is still here.  It took just over 2 years to build and erect.  It was built piece by piece off site and assembled where it stands today.  Pretty amazing engineering without computers.  Its beautiful and paying for the tour definitely beat standing in line for hours just to get to the elevator line and then standing more.  This is off season and the signs said it would be about a 4 hour wait.  If you choose to buy the unguided tour it costs only 18e.  We paid $54 each.  That gave us the skip the line and a nice guide from Scotland that knew a lot of the history we would have had to read on Wikipedia.

Favorite shot of the day

 

Our guide, Jade took our photo in the spot she takes all her customers photo.  Its a pretty good location.

The iron work almost looks like lace

 

 

I don’t think the view would have been any better had we ridden the elevator to the top, besides it costs more and your only choice was to buy a ticket to the top and wait inline.  Paul would not have gone under any circumstances and I think enjoying the view longer from here was perfect.

Sacre Coure Basilica

That is the church that sits on the hill above our apartment.  It didn’t seem that far away but from up here it does.  The city of Paris  41 square miles with a population of 2, 140,526.  It is very concentrated with residents.

 

 

 

 

 

Walked 7 miles and 16 flights of stairs – Part 2

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

Back on land we walked into the Lourve which was built as a fortress built in 1190!  Thats old and the architecture is amazing.  The museum is closed today so tourist are not as plentiful and you can only enjoy the outside which I did.

From here we walked through the Tuileries Gardens,  a little early but they had a few beds of beautiful flowers.  The fountains were very nice although one just sent a stream of water straight up?  It was a slightly cloudy day but warm so we enjoyed the walk.

                                     Tuileries Garden

We continued toward the Arc de Triomphe beyond the Chanps-Elysees.  Lots of people watching but not what I was originally thinking.  I thought this boulevard was like Rodeo Drive with lots of fashion, not at all.  Chain stores and fast food joints, although we saw our first Mc Donalds with fine patio seating!  Many of the cafe’s had patio seating with the seats stadium style for maximum people watching.  There were lots of people, mostly tourists and not many extraordinary enough for me to say this was a good people watching spot.   There wasn’t any high fashion or fancy clothed people or cars.  We did enjoy the walk.  And the Arc de Triomphe is something you could sit and watch for a very long time

 

Laduree Paris Royale Macaroons must be the best because we waited in line and paid 17 e for 6 cookies in 6 different flavors including rose, lavender and Marie Antonette.  Tastee, yes. Worth it?  probably not!  But I have a cute box that I can remember today with instead of another trinket.  Who knows maybe when I get home I’ll learn to make macaroons and I’ll wrap them just like this and give to a special friend.

Paul found this fountain very interesting.  Definitely different and the tubes light up at night.  He wants to build one – we will see how far that goes!  And then finally, after all the news at home about the yellow vests and all the warnings we finally saw a small grouping!   The look harmless but we saw lots of broken windows along the Champs- Elysees.

And finally to the Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is located on the right bank of the Seine with  twelve radiating avenues. It was commissioned in 1806 after the victory at Austerlitz by Emperor Napoleon at the peak of his fortunes. Laying the foundations alone took two years and, in 1810, when Napoleon entered Paris from the west with his bride Archduchess Marie-Louise of Austria, he had a wooden mock-up of the completed arch constructed. The architect, Jean Chalgrin, died in 1811 and the work was taken over by Jean-Nicolas Huyot.

The Arc is beautiful but the traffic was much more entertaining. The craziest, no horns blaring, no crashes, all speeds, and some vehicles actually stop in the middle waiting for an opportunity to turn off, and hardly any slamming brakes.   Buses, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, delivery trucks and entering and exiting at the same time from every angle and we were not even there during a busy time.  Facinating and scary at the same time.  I couldn’t believe a bicyclist was in the circle.

We found the tunnel to get to the middle and the line to go up in the Arc although we opted to not wait and do that because it couldn’t get much better than being right on the level of all this action.

                                     Why?

Thats our question but if you look on wikipedia it does explain why a warrior going into battle is completely nude!   And then it was time to find a train and get back to our cozy apartment.

 

Walked 7 miles and 16 flights of stairs – Part 1

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

Up early and out to see more Paris.  We took the Metro the Seine River to take a morning tour just to get a taste of the City.  Found the cruise pier and then we had time so we found breakfast!  Yesterday our croissant and coffees were 7 e, today we got table service, real cups and 4 croissants for a mere 25 e!  Thats what you get for just sitting down and ordering.  Oh well

 

 

Paul did think the cup with two handles was fun!

The Seine runs right thru the middle of Paris with many attractions on both sides.  The boats above were a few of the many parked along the banks.  We only saw a couple tour boats while we were out.  We passed the Lourve, many bridges

This is the Orsay Museum which was built as a train station that was built for the Worlds fair in 1900.  Today it houses many works by the Impressionist.

And  then our first site of the Eiffel Tower.  It didn’t seem that big or tall although it is definitely taller than anything else around the city.

Eiffel Tower

Just past the tower our boat turned around and headed past the starting point.  Our guide spoke in French and then in English with the same voice, sometimes it was hard to understand her but she made sure we knew we did.  We saw lots more bridges, Paris has 37 bridges in all and Paul thought we must have seen all 37!  Some were old, some brand new and some with lots of carvings from the period they were built.  And then we came to the main reason I wanted to take the cruise.  Notre Dame de Paris

It doesn’t look anything like it did a week ago but it is still very beautiful and someday it will be back among the major attractions in Paris.

                                                                                  In this photo you can see the round medallion in the point has been burned out.

This is the view showing the side where most of the damage is and the melted scaffolding is.  The guide did not talk at all about the fire and no one asked,  It was oddly silent.  Paul and I thought we might go there and tour what you can of the grounds but after seeing this we decided we did not want to go.  Next trip!!!

Paris Day 1

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

We made it!  The flight was perfect although long.  The upgraded cabin and seats definitely helped.  Arrived to our cozy studio in MontMartre and Jeff met us to show us about and how to get in.  There are 3 doors before you enter the 100 sq feet of home with 4 locks!  We immediately went downstairs to the bakery and got a fresh croissant, quiche and coffee.  Very good.  Then it was upstairs and to bed.

Tinier than the Van!

 

We set the alarm so we wouldn’t sleep too long as it was only 4 in the afternoon.  Woke up, took a nice hot shower and off to explore.  To our surprise our home is right at the base of Sacra Coure   after  climbing more than 270 steps to the base!

The climb once you make the 270 steps!

Paris from the front of the Sacra Coure

Then we wandered the busy streets of MontMartre after 9 pm.  There were even more people than at Twilight.  We found a cute little cafe just beyond the church and had an evening snack of French Onion Soup and cheese with a glass of Champagne.  My bucket list is getting lots of checks so far!

Its crowded here and pretty littered but the people are very friendly and helpful so far!  They seem very merry.